Every homeschooling parent starts out with high hopes and visions of peaceful days teaching their children the important lessons in life. Then reality strikes. Teaching at home is not easy. It involves a great amount of planning and a huge effort to motivate yourself as well as your children, not to mention knowing a whole lot of stuff. You need to stay organized to make learning time run as smoothly as possible and to be sure that you do not miss any crucial topics that your children need to know.
Then, your child becomes a teenager. A whole new set of challenges arises at this point. Teenagers, as we all know, can be difficult to deal with for no reason that is apparent to anyone else. You are dealing with a kid who may now question you and what you are teaching her. You are also trying to get them to start planning for college and/or a job. And, to top it all off, you need to be able to teach your high school-aged child algebra, geometry, trigonometry, chemistry, physics, literature, and more. Teaching the subjects at lower levels is doable for just about anyone. But what if you don’t feel confident with some of the high school topics? If that is the case with you, don’t feel bad. You are not alone. Not many parents can reach back in time and remember enough chemistry to teach it to their children.
There are many ways that you can tackle all the new challenges that come with homeschooling at the high-school level. With some research, planning, and help from others, you can make the experience a valuable one for your child and a sane one for yourself.
If your teen is like most others, motivation can be an issue. We are all born with a passion for learning. As your child approaches her teenage years, however, she may become a little jaded about education. This happens to many, many kids in public schools. Having homeschooled her up to this point, you already have an advantage. You have been instilling in her a love for learning, and you have been making education much more fun than what is experienced in a traditional classroom. However, don’t be surprised or hurt if her attitude starts to head south. It’s normal.
Teenagers love to be in control of their own destiny—or at least believe they are more in control. Give your teen more choices and watch her interest in learning reignite. Just make sure the choices are within your planned curriculum. She is not necessarily qualified to make the decision all by herself. Give her a selection of books to choose from, for instance, for English and literature lessons. If she has a particular area of interest in science, let her focus on that and try to integrate other science topics into it.
Take lessons into the real world. As kids become teens, they begin to question everything more. This is a good thing! They are becoming critical thinkers. One of the major complaints that teens have with schooling is that what they learn seems completely irrelevant. Your teen may ask you when she will ever need to use geometry again. Find as many ways as you can to make lessons relevant to the world outside of education. Use the garden and the great outdoors when teaching science. Teach math with practical lessons like budgeting, building structures, and making gardens. Find out what subjects are needed for your teen’s prospective career plans. If she wants to be a veterinarian, explain that math and science subjects must be mastered to get into a veterinary college.
Another way to get relevance into your teen’s education is to put her out in the real world. She could get a part time job, do volunteer work, or participate in a job-shadowing program. When she steps out into the world of work, she will see that all of her education is leading somewhere important and worthwhile.
Preparing for and Getting into College
If your teen is planning to attend college, you need to start preparing as soon as possible. While parents who send their kids to public high schools have counselors, teachers, and administrators to help them navigate the college application process, you are on your own. It can be daunting to think of the responsibility, but there is no reason that you as a parent cannot prepare and help your teen get into a good school. There are several things to consider:
- Know your state’s requirements. As a homeschooler, you have probably referenced and used your states curriculum standards as a guide for educating your children. For your high school-aged child, following it becomes even more important. If you hope for her to earn some type of diploma, you must show that she has learned what is required.
- Start researching early. Pick out several colleges that your teen is interested in attending one day. Find out how each one handles admissions, what their requirements are, and how they handle homeschooled applicants. The more you know and the earlier you know it, the better you can be prepared to get your child into the school of her dreams.
- Get a diploma. Most universities will require some type of diploma, which is always a question mark for homeschoolers. Some will accept a diploma awarded at home, which is why it is essential to research each college. If an outside-awarded diploma is required, there are a few ways to get one. You can pay an accrediting institution to accredit your child’s transcripts, which may be pricey. You can also enroll your teen in a distance-learning program, which culminates in a diploma, but may also prove expensive. You may also try to work with your local public school to get her a diploma based upon what she has achieved at home. This would be free, but they may not accept her credits.
- Start with community college. Get your teen into a course or two at a local community college. This shows universities that she is well educated and motivated. It also gives them an official transcript to look at.
Teaching Upper-Level Subjects
If you cringe at the thought of relearning calculus or chemistry for the sake of teaching your teen, you are not alone. Not many of us can easily retrieve some of that information that we learned so many years ago in high school or college. So, how can you ensure she learns what she needs to know? There are many options available to you:
- Relearn with her. If you have the time, you can relearn some of these subjects as you go. It may not seem like a very practical solution, but you might be surprised. You may find as you delve into that algebra book, that you remember more than you realized.
- Take online courses. If you enroll your teen in an online program, she can take courses and earn an official transcript and diploma. This could be very beneficial for getting into college and for ensuring that she learns these tough subjects, but it can also be out of your budget. Search for free courses too. They may not lead to an accredited diploma, but they can go a long way towards explaining these tough concepts for you. Try Khan Academy  for a start.
- Work with others. If you belong to a homeschooling organization, you may be able to work with others to get through the tougher high-school subject. Maybe another mom is great with advanced math classes, and you were a history major. You can trade off teaching duties in these subject areas. You may also consider hiring a professional together. With pooled resources, it may be very affordable to hire a retired teacher to work with your teens on subjects that you just can’t tackle.
With the right planning and a little extra effort, there is no reason that you cannot successfully homeschool your teen. Why put them back in public school at this crucial age? Continue to strengthen the bond that you have developed through homeschooling and prepare your teen for the real world of work and college.
©2012 Off the Grid News